Diana, Princess of Wales fascinates me. Judging by the queues to see Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace, I’m not the only one. You queue to buy your ticket and then as you skip up the stairs thinking that your queueing time is done you get in line again. On the day I visited, people snaked all the way across one room and round out into the garden. Don’t let the queues put you off: the frocks are fantastic.
OK, I know these are not frocks but they are iconic. The tweed suit was worn by Diana for a photocall at Balmoral during her honeymoon. Sounds ludicrous now, but it kicked off a trend for tweed suits, the ‘interview’ suit that I bought as graduation loomed was a blue tweed number (it also had a matching hat which I never wore!). Next to it is the Emanuel blouse that featured in Vogue just as the engagement of Diana and the Prince of Wales was announced. She liked it so much that the Emanuels were asked to design her wedding dress.
This sequin and pearl strewn dress is often called the Elvis dress. Standing in front of it enables you to see just how many sequins and pearls were sewn on by hand to create the shimmery column. I’ve always thought that the jacket looked like an Elizabethan ruff, so I was delighted to discover that designer Catherine Walker took her inspiration portraits of Elizabeth I.
Most of the dresses on display are instantly recognisable from the many pictures taken of Diana. This Catherine Walker dress embroidered with falcons was new to me. It is demure and beautiful. Diana wore it on a state visit to Saudi Arabia, the falcon is the national bird of Saudi Arabia. Does the United Kingdom have a national bird, I wonder.
It isn’t only dresses that are on display, one wall is dedicated to sketches that the designers made to show their ideas at the beginning of the design process. It is amazing to see the sketches that became outfits so familiar from newspaper and magazine pictures. These drawings are by Roland Klein.
Before you leave the Palace, make sure you go to the loo on the ground floor. The corridor outside is hung with this rather fine wallpaper showing Diana wearing many of the dresses on display. Julie Verhoeven created the design and it was made up by Cole and Son.
My friend Wendy and I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the Orangery before we went to see the exhibition. When we saw the size of the queue we realised that we should have gone to see Diana: Her Fashion Story first as the earlier you arrive the shorter the line. So popular is the exhibition that you are advised to book your ticket first, bear in mind that you still have to queue even if you have a ticket, so factor that into your arrival time.
DIANA: HER FASHION STORY
24 February 2017 – 28 February 2018
Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
Admission: Adult £19, concessions £15, Children free
Members of Historic Royal Palaces and Art Fund members go free
Price includes admission to Kensington Palace